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A Previous E-Mail of The Week 

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This week's question: 

I’m a director at heart and want to show that in my scripts by writing in them about camera angles and how I want to move the camera so producers can see how I visualize the movie.  Is that okay to do?

Jeffrey from Maine


This week's Answer: 

Dear Jeffrey,

Jeffrey, as much as I sympathize with you about wanting to show your directorial abilities in your scripts, truly, it’s best not to.  An older style of screenwriting used to incorporate camera directions (and, who knows:  maybe that detailed technique may return again), but, currently, that style is no longer favored in the film industry.  In fact, it is shunned and generally not appreciated in the least.  Let me let you in on a little secret that may floor you as it did me when I was made privy to it:  Producers, on a whole, don’t like to read.  Here’s another strange, but often true fact:  Readers (story analysts) like to read as little as possible.  To get them to even consider your screenplay, you want their eyes (and often mushy-from-too-much reading minds) to be able to glide down your pages, taking in the story as smoothly and quickly as possible.  As much as I personally like to see the whole picture and enjoy knowing how the camera is eyeing the action, they, as a rule, do not.  (Anything extraneous, such as camera direction, gets in the way of them finishing their assignment and getting out to the pool before the sun goes down.)  

Be that as it may, I say explore your directorial world and, if you choose, in order to not hamper but enhance your creative process, write your first draft with as many camera directions as you desire.  Just be sure to take them out when you compose your last draft for those who aren’t as “camera friendly.”  But save that first draft because what you may have there and what you will definitely want if or when you direct your film is... a shooting script.  Priceless. 

One point:  If you do need to show a specific perspective in your script, what is accepted and often used is the pronoun “we,” which can be substituted for the word “camera,” (which you definitely do not want to use.  A big no-no at this time.)  Examples:   1) We move (or “push”) into the prison cell through the bars.  2) We’re looking through the eyes of the killer as he/she opens the creaky door with gloved hands and steps into the dark attic.  3) As blackness turns to gray and then to a light blue, we’re looking straight up into a bright, blue sky. 

I hope that helps.  Before I sign off... (CAMERA pulls back and dollies along DcH’s office, displaying a less than organized yet erudite workspace.  CAMERA PUSHES IN on DcH’s nimble fingers clacking away at the keyboard and PANS up to his intense visage, a man on a mission to help screenwriting mankind overcome-- That’s probably enough there)... I just want to say that it is important to nourish that director in you because it is my belief that there’s a shooting script in each of us.

DcH


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